Students and teachers from J.H. Rose High School in Greenville were on ECU’s campus June 15-19 working with staff from the Tar River Writing Project developing plans to implement an idea that earned them a national grant.
The Tar River Writing Project, housed at ECU in the University Writing Program, and Rose High School were one of one of 14 groups in the nation awarded a $20,000 LRNG Innovation Challenge Grant.
During the week, 11 teachers worked with 15 Rose students designing six maker spaces that will operate during Rose’s 80-minute SMART Block period. Maker spaces, sometimes called hackspaces and fablabs, are communities for people to create, invent, learn and share projects.
The maker spaces at Rose will focus on fashion design, robotics/programming, upcycling/repurposing objects, beat making, digital storytelling/media making, and a 3-D/prototype fabrication lab.
Students will be able to visit and explore in these maker spaces during the school’s SMART Block, which allows students to attend academic sessions with teachers or participate in extracurricular activities. Once students find something that they are interested in, they can pick up and follow interest-driven educational pathways, said Stephanie West-Puckett, Tar River Writing Project associate director and a member of the ECU Department of English faculty.
“This grant gives us an opportunity to design innovative educational spaces together that bridge curricular and extracurricular learning,” she said.
During the weeklong event, the educators from ECU and Rose High designed a curriculum with low barriers for easy access and high ceilings for developing mastery. Each maker space will also have a service project so that students and faculty can use the concepts and tools to benefit others in need, West-Puckett said.
“Pop-up maker stations are at the core of what SMART Block should offer students,” said Monica Jacobson, principal at J.H. Rose. “With the stations, Rose students will be afforded time and access to resources that connect and extend their knowledge. Students will be provided with opportunities to build relationships with their peers, teachers, and community partners that share similar interests while they explore beyond the classroom.”
Educators presented the ideas on the last day of the event to school administrators, community members and parents for their feedback.
Will Banks, director of the University Writing Program and of the Tar River Writing Project, noted, “It’s rare that teachers, students, and community members get to work together to find shared interests and passions—and to remember that passion, not test scores, motivates learning.”
The LRNG Innovation Challenge is a new initiative that invests in forward-looking schools and teachers to design innovative projects that take advantage of new technology to support students’ creativity. It is sponsored in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation and John Legend’s Show Me Campaign.
West-Puckett said musician John Legend wants high school students – with projects like the ones funded by the grants – to be able to pursue their interests, especially in the arts, which may not fit into a traditional curriculum approach.
Rob Puckett, a Rose printing and graphics instructor, is working to develop a 3-D printing & prototyping maker space. “While 3-D printing trinkets and toys is neat, we want to demonstrate how these tools can make a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “Each semester, we’ll work together on printing a custom-made prosthetic hand with free, open-source plans.”
Fellow Rose teacher Lynn Cox, who is collaborating on a maker space for robotics and computer programming, said, “It was great to have the students here with us and see how eager they are for these kinds of opportunities in school.”